Monday, January 14, 2008

Water laws may throttle growth

By Deborah Schoch, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer January 14, 2008

Statutes force a district near Lake Perris to assess whether supply will be available for huge warehouse project, which is now on hold.

The planned distribution center for the footwear firm Skechers USA would rise on 1.7 million square feet in the Inland Empire, making it one of the largest warehouses in the United States. It would anchor a new community called Rancho Belago, a variation of the Italian for "beautiful lake," after nearby Lake Perris reservoir.

Now, in a sign of growing water anxieties, the Skechers warehouse and six other large projects in western Riverside County are on hold until March or later because the local water agency could not promise to deliver water to serve them.

The dilemma shows what can happen when construction and global trade, key drivers of the regional economy, are reined in by a potential lack of water.

"Just looking at the raw numbers, we kept coming up short," said David J. Slawson, president of the board of directors of the Perris-based Eastern Municipal Water District, one of the largest districts in the state.